A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder Blogathon)

When Aurora and Kellee first announced their jointly hosted Billy Wilder Blogathon, I was eager to sign up. After all, with a career such as his, the hardest part would be narrowing down what movie I wanted to choose. After a moment of thought, the right film, for me, seemed to be A Foreign Affair, starring a couple of ladies so completely opposite, but so very dear to me- Jean Arthur and Marlene Dietrich.


Wilder, having served in Germany for the US Army, during WWII, had been promised government assistance in making a film about Allied Occupied Germany. The humorous, if still shocking, exposés of the goings on, over there, made the government regret everything. Looking back, now, critics seem to waver on whether this film was one of Wilder’s worst or best, but I personally find it to be a genius look at the realities of post-war Germany. For Wilder to have been able to make light of things like Black Markets and hidden war criminals, while still exposing the severity of it all, is nothing short of incredible.

Jean Arthur, lured out of retirement for the role, is as quirky as ever, as Phoebe Frost, a member of a US Congressional Committee, visiting troops in Germany, 1947. Notoriously insecure, she feared that Wilder was favoring Marlene Dietrich, who Wilder had known since his early years making films in Berlin. Arthur eventually (nearly four decades later) apologized to Wilder, asking if they could be friends, but never let go of the grudge she held against Dietrich.

While Dietrich is essentially playing a similar role to many she’d done previously, this one had a very disturbing aspect to it- she was a Nazi sympathizer. Anyone who knows just the smallest of detail about Dietrich knows that this couldn’t be further from the truth, in her real life, but she pulls it off without lampooning the character. To have played Erika any differently would have altered the movie, for the worst.

While not as biting as his commentary on Hollywood vanity, in Sunset Blvd., the Wilder stamp is clear, in A Foreign Affair. It’s definitely not to be missed. You can order it from Movies Unlimited, as part of a two-pack Directed By Billy Wilder set, HERE.

For more Billy Wilder Blogathon entries, check in with the delightful hostesses, Aurora and Kellee. 🙂


7 thoughts on “A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder Blogathon)

  1. Pingback: THE BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON is here! « Once upon a screen…

  2. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen A FOREIGN AFFAIR and indeed for me the greatest attraction is the combo of its two stars. And Wilder of course. Great entry for the blogathon. Thanks so much for taking part.


  3. I always have mixed feelings on this one. It really tries to do a Lubitschian take on something very dark and very serious and I’m not sure it always works. But I do admire what it tries to do as much as it succeeds. It doesn’t hurt that Arthur and Dietrich are perfectly matched, and Wilder’s footage of post-War Berlin is stunning. Maybe a tier below The Third Man, but I’d still put it in the same league.

    I also love, after watching through Wilder’s films, that you can pretty watch the progress of the 20th century through his movies, from pre-WWI Emperor Waltz, to WWII in Five Graves to Cairo and Stalag 17, post-WWII in A Foreign Affair, and then Cold War shenanigans in One, Two, Three. Few other directors have so many films that serve so well as history lessons.

  4. Great article today! I’ve not seen this movie but I love Jean Arthur…so….gotta watch it soon.

  5. Pingback: Happy Birthday Billy! The BILLY WILDER BLOGATHON is here… – Outspoken and Freckled

  6. I can never make up my mind about this one – I’m not sure if it’s because I dislike Dietrich’s character or because I feel like the film is trying to be too many things at once. I enjoyed reading your post though – maybe it’s time to give it a re-watch!

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